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Posted 24 February 2011
Revivo tea has been drawn to my attention. The advert asks: “Do YOU want to be healthy, fit and strong enough to fight off infections easily?”
The product claims: “Revivo is a combination of herbs which contain various nutrients and active compounds that may support the immune system and strengthen the body in general.
“MAY”? Surely you the consumer can expect DOES! Why spend money on a product that “may”? And the product suggests that it may be effective against AIDS.
And what is the evidence that this product may work?
On the page titled “Research” (http://revivotea.com/research) pseudoscientific arguments are used to give the product a sense of respectability – but let’s be blunt, there is not a single study that has evaluated this combination of herbs, in these doses, for effectiveness in humans.
Certainly in the South African situation, doing a study like this without MCC permission is illegal.
The website also carries an advert from the radio station, Metro FM, with the byline “as heard about on Metro FM”. It is unfathomable that a radio station will sell their soul by aiding and abetting the selling of a product with no proof of efficacy, which if convinces a user to avoid tested forms of therapy, may lead to that user’s death. This sucks. If you have a lost a loved one because of this, I would recommend you contacting a lawyer and seeing whether you have a case for suing Metro FM.
This product also garnered some infamy: an advert for the product appeared on the ANC’s Youth League website: “The 10 000 young people who visit the ANC Youth League’s official website every month are seeing paid advertisements from a South African company selling a herbal product as a remedy for Aids.”
If there was evidence that the product works, this company would have been able to convince the ASA and prevent a ruling against the claims for this product. They did not.
The ASA ruling follows.
Revivo Tea / P linzer / 13898
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Mr Patrick Linzer Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Aconite Medical Suppliers cc Respondent
Mr Linzer lodged a consumer complaint against internet advertising originally appearing on www.herbalpharmacy.co.za, www.revivotea.co.za, and www.revivotea.com.
The websites promotes the respondent’s “Revivo Herbal Tea for HIV”. The website www.revivotea.com states, inter alia, as follows:
“27 Herbs were tested against the HIV virus in an independant (sic) laboratory in California and again in Hong Kong.
11 of them showed significant activity against the HIV virus.
5 of them destroyed more than 95% of the virus…the safest and most effective of these herbs are contained in Revivo.
Shouldnt you know more about Revivo then? Read more below:
Welcome to our website, we have developed Revivo based on extensive research into effective herbs for HIV, as well as the ancient wisdom of Chinese Herbal Medicine, which has been treating HIV and AIDS successfully even before HIV and AIDS was recognised. One of the research studies we used to select the herbs that go into Revivo is the study mentioned above, …
In the study, researchers took 27 herbs which are commonly used in Chinese Herbal Medicine for HIV. These herbs were all individually prepared into a ‘decoction’ and the HIV virus was added to the mixture, upon contact 5 of the herbs almost completely destroyed the virus and 6 others had significant activity against the virus. Of the herbs, some of the best acting herbs which are also safe to use were Prunella Vulgaris, Arctium Lappa, and Nelumbo Nucifera which are all contained in Revivo”.
Since the start of the Directorate’s investigation, the www.herbalpharmacy.co.za and www.revivotea.co.za websites have been deactivated.
In essence, the complainant submitted that the HIV-related claims are clearly in breach of Appendix F of the ASA Code. The complainant added that the claims made in relation to this product’s research, abilities and possibilities as far as HIV is concerned are misleading and unsubstantiated. Some of the claims specifically referred to by the complainant are:
“we have developed Revivo based on extensive research into effective herbs for HIV, as well as the ancient wisdom of Chinese Herbal Medicine, which has been treating HIV and AIDS successfully even before HIV and AIDS was recognised”;
“it is the culmination of only the best methods of herbal supplementation for HIV and the ingredients of the formula acting synergistically have proved itself to be better than any of the herbs taken individually”;
“…herbs in Revivo are designed to stop this hidden heat and replenish what is already consumed, that is why so many people are benefitting from using Revivo, irrespective of what stage of HIV they are in”.
RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the new submissions the following clauses of the Code were taken into account:
• Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation
• Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims
In addition to this, the complainant also submitted that these claims are in contravention of Clause 2 of Appendix F.
The respondent submitted, inter alia, that endeavours to be as honest as possible in its communication, and takes complaints of this nature very seriously. It also confirmed that the www.revivotea.co.za and www.herbalpharmacy.co.za websites were originally administered by third parties. It has, however, decided to close these websites permanently, and manage its online advertising in-house, via the www.revivotea.com website.
On the merits, it argued that its advertising is very clear in that the product is not marketed as a medicine or cure for HIV or AIDS. It also referred to certain aspects of its website it believes adequately clarifies and contextualises the claims objected to.
It added that the reference to “…which has been treating HIV and AIDS successfully even before HIV and AIDS was recognised” has been amended to read “…which has been treating the symptoms and underlying Chinese herbal pattern of HIV and AIDS successfully even before HIV and AIDS was recognised”.
It also referred the Directorate to research available on its website, and added that there is a wealth of evidence that is freely available that shows that Chinese Medicine has been treating the presenting symptoms that appear in HIV and AIDS for a long time.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
The ASA has a long standing principle which holds that where an advertiser provides an unequivocal undertaking to withdraw or amend its advertising in a manner that addresses the concerns raised, that undertaking is accepted without considering the merits of the matter.
The respondent confirmed that it has permanently closed the www.revivotea.co.za and www.herbalpharmacy.co.za websites.
This undertaking addresses the concerns as far as these websites are concerned, and is therefore accepted on condition that they are not used again in future.
Clause 4.1 of Section II requires advertisers to submit verification from independent, credible experts in the field to which the claims relate, to show that the claims made for the product are adequately supported. In addition, it is trite that the Directorate does not accept ingredient-based substantiation, as there is always a potential concern that ingredients may contra-indicate each other. As such, substantiation has to verify that the claims apply to the product as a whole when used at the recommended dose.
Despite arguing the interpretation and merits, the respondent has submitted no independent verification from a credible expert in this field to show that its product, as a whoe, has any effect on HIV and AIDS.
Accordingly, the respondent’s advertising is in contravention of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.
In addition to the above, however, the Directorate draws specific attention to the provisions of Appendix F.
Clause 2 of Appendix F states as follows:
“Advertisements should note make any recommendations or offer products, treatments, or advice for any of the following illnesses or conditions unless –
2.1 the recommendations accord with full product registration by the MCC; or
2.2 such advertising is an educational or information campaign addressed to the lay public by Government Institutions or bodies recognised by the ASA to run such campaigns; or
2.3 the advertising is for products not registerable with the MCC in which case the advertising is subject to the normal provisions of the Code of Advertising Practice”.
The only condition listed in this part of the appendix is “AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)”. Accordingly, unless the above criteria are met, no advertiser may make any recommendation, offer any product, or treatment or advice for AIDS.
The respondent has not provided any proof that its product, claims, references or recommendations “accord with full product registration by the MCC”. There is also no basis to believe that the respondent’s advertising is “an educational or information campaign”. Finally, the respondent has submitted nothing to show that its product is “not registerable with the MCC”.
Given the above, the respondent’s advertising is currently also in contravention of Clause 2 of Appendix F.
The respondent is therefore required to:
Withdraw the advertising complained of in its current format;
The process of withdrawing this advertising must be actioned with immediate effect;
The process of withdrawing the advertising must be completed within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide; and
The advertising may not be used again in its current format in future.
The complaint is upheld.
|Read more about AIDS scams and unsubstantiated products at the TAC (Treatment Action Campaign) blog and product database: http://quackdown.tac.org.za/quackdown/claims/|
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